Comparative study of acetylcholinesterase and glutathione S-transferase activities of closely related cave and surface Asellus aquaticus (Isopoda: Crustacea)
The freshwater isopod crustacean Asellus aquaticus has recently been developed as an emerging invertebrate cave model for studying evolutionary and developmental biology. Mostly morphological and genetic differences between cave and surface A. aquaticus populations have been described up to now, while scarce data are available on other aspects, including physiology. The purpose of this study was to advance our understanding of the physiological differences between cave A. aquaticus and its surface-dwelling counterparts. We sampled two surface populations from the surface section of the sinking Pivka River (central Slovenia, Europe), i.e. locality Pivka Polje, and locality Planina Polje, and one cave population from the subterranean section of the sinking Pivka River, i.e. locality Planina Cave. Animals were sampled in spring, summer and autumn. We measured the activities of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) in individuals snapfrozen in the field immediately after collection. Acetylcholinesterase is likely related to animals’ locomotor activity, while GST activity is related to the metabolic activity of an organism. Our study shows significantly lower AChE and GST activities in the cave population in comparison to both surface A. aquaticus populations. This confirms the assumption that cave A. aquaticus have lower locomotor and metabolic activity than surface A. aquaticus in their respective natural environments. In surface A. aquaticus populations, seasonal fluctuations in GST activity were observed, while these were less pronounced in individuals from the more stable cave environment. On the other hand, AChE activity was generally seasonindependent in all populations. To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind conducted in A. aquaticus. Our results show that among closely related cave and surface A. aquaticus populations also physiological differences are present besides the morphological and genetic. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the biology of A. aquaticus and cave crustaceans in general.